Sunday, August 10, 2008


In The Book of Zechariah, two angels measure the city of God, attempting to define and bound it, but finding that the City will be so overflowing with multitudes that it shall be inhabited as a "town without walls." However, the LORD will be a "wall of fire" round about and a "glory in the midst of her." Though there are no walls limiting the Celestial City, the fire of the LORD both animates and restrains it, an outer flame with an inner, echoing glory, and God in the center and the circumference. The fire is of the creative rather than destructive variety; the same beatific flames which entwined around the Bush on Mount Horeb. The "glory" is the restored Presence of God which the anguished Ezekiel witnessed as it departed from the holy city.

In the City of God there are no external, literal walls of worldly boundary--only the fiery walls of Vision--of God's Glory as His Presence dwells within the limitless City. This reciprocal relationship of inner and outer fire must be reproduced within each of us in our dealings with the Divine.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Way in the Sea

Thy way is in the sea
And thy path in the great waters
And thy footsteps are not known.
-Psalm 77

The sea is the kingdom of Leviathan, the universe of chaos and decay--of a primitive and terrifying homogeneity. It is a "unity" which is pre-existent, and it denies selfhood. The path of the LORD does not skirt gingerly around chaos and darkness, but cuts straight through it, as when the LORD divided the Red Sea for Moses and his followers. Division was produced by inscribing a line into chaotic endlessness and portioning it into two areas--creating a boundary.

The creation of the world was a process of repeated divisions, or breakings, of primal chaos. The elemental and original face of the deep (or face of the waters) was repeatedly shattered to produce our world of boundaries. The original Face of God was shattered into infinite shards. Our world is based upon the tension between chthonian pandemonium and the divisional order of creation. Neither is sufficient in itself. The road to eternal Life leads us on a march through chaos and death.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Leonardo on Shadows

Shadow is of the nature of darkness.


Light is of the nature of a luminous body;

One conceals and the other reveals.

They are always associated and inseparable from all objects--

But shadow is a more powerful agent than light.


Shadow is the counterpart of the luminous rays

Which are transformed into back into shadow.

Shadow is the diminution alike of light and of darkness;

It stands between darkness and light.

A shadow may be infinitely dark,

Or of infinite degrees of absence of darkness.


The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness

They may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased.

Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form--

The forms of bodies could not be understood but for shadow.


Shadow partakes of the nature of universal matter.

All such matters are more powerful in their beginning

And grow weaker towards the end.

I say at the beginning, whatever their form or condition may be

And whether visible or invisible.

For it is not from small beginnings that they grow to a great size in time,

As a great oak which has a feeble beginning from a small acorn.

Yet I may say that the oak is most powerful at its beginning,

That is where it springs from the earth, which is where it is largest.

Darkness, then, is the strongest degree of shadow

And light is its least.

Therefore, O Painter, make your shadow darkest

Close to the object that casts it,

And make the end of it fading into light,

Seeming to have no end.

When the light is below the sphere

The shadow is thrown up towards the sky

And finding no obstruction on its way

Is lost...

-from the Notebooks (selections from Sections 118-125)

"Unable to resist my eager desire and wanting to see the great of
the various and strange shapes made by formative nature, and having
wandered some distance among gloomy rocks, I came to the entrance of
a great cavern, in front of which I stood some time, astonished and
unaware of such a thing. Bending my back into an arch I rested my
left hand on my knee and held my right hand over my down-cast and
contracted eye brows: often bending first one way and then the
other, to see whether I could discover anything inside, and this
being forbidden by the deep darkness within, and after having
remained there some time, two contrary emotions arose in me, fear
and desire--fear of the threatening dark cavern, desire to see
whether there were any marvelous thing within it ..."

I think this image perfectly sums up Leonardo--peering into the
darkness with fear and desire. No artist was so drawn to the
shadows of existence, the blurry edges where boundaries are lost
and darkness threatens to swallow everything. In the end,
the darkness did swallow him up, and Leonardo ended his days
haunted by apocalyptic visions of Deluge.